Across my career I’ve managed a fair number of collaborations, from big to small to all consuming, and so I recently got to thinking about what makes them work. What makes them fun to be a part of, and most of all, what makes them successful. Like any good recipe, there are several key ingredients that without, your final masterpiece will simply fall flat. So I’ve reflected on lots of my experiences over the years and tried to flesh out below what works and what doesn’t. Plus, in the very spirit of collaborating, I’ve enlisted the additional expertise of Collaboration Specialist Jess Ruhfus of Collabosaurus, a genius platform that Jess says “works like a dating site, matchmaking cool brands together to make for brilliant collaboration campaigns”. As the saying goes ‘two minds are better than one’, so smart partnerships are a fantastic way to attract like-minded customers to your business and as Jess agrees, are “one of the most cost effective, engaging and powerful ways to grow a brand”.


1. Set clear goals upfront – know with 100% certainty what you want to achieve and what your final goal or objective is. It is crucial to keep this end point in mind along every step of the way as it will guide all of your options and decisions. Ideally both parties will be working towards a common goal that is underpinned by a clear sense of purpose or “why” you want to be in this together.


2. Know your limits – be really clear in your mind about the things you absolutely cannot negotiate or compromise on. Things like brand essence, values and ethics and of course, your end goal. Equally, go into a collaboration with a few things you’re willing to part ways with, the “nice to haves” that won’t really matter at the end of the day and that you can freely give up in exchange for aspects of the partnership you’re more attached to.


3. It’s a two way street – perhaps both parties are heading in different directions, but you’re sharing the same road. At some point you’ll be at exactly the same place and that’s where the magic happens. A collaboration is about how you can both be successful, both win, in that moment. The best collaborators always see it from their partner’s point of view and are constantly trying to find ways to make it better for them by leveraging each other’s strengths. Happily, Jess agrees with me and says; “For a brand collaboration to be successful, there must be a fairly equal exchange of give and get”.


4. Create a deadline – having a looming line in the sand will make you more productive. You can then use this date to plan a timeline backwards, working back from when you want to achieve your final goal. It will help you to get clear on the details you need to be working on each week to cumulatively make it to the finish line.


5. Be transparent – a collaboration is not the time to keep your cards close to your chest. The very word itself means to work with someone else, not against them and you can only achieve mutually beneficial outcomes through full disclosure.


6. Be nice to work with – it sounds almost ridiculous to include this but, you’d be surprised. Be actively pleasant, polite in all communication and exchanges, reply to emails and return phone calls. You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t. Manners never go out of style.


Being part of a collaboration is one of the most fun parts of business so I hope you find these ideas helpful. And a very special thanks to Jess for being part of this blog on one of my favourite topics.


With love,

Erin x

Michaela Chanmugam